A simple posture hack will have a large scale impact on your testosterone and cortisol levels.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School gave an eye opening TED talk in 2012 on the subject of using your body language to shape who you are, or more appropriately… who you want to become.
Body language is dependent on non-verbal cues.
However, the majority of research on non-verbals has historically focused on non-verbals as perceived by outsiders. For example, how your body language governs how other people think and feel about you.
But the really important question isn’t that, but rather: do our non-verbals affect how we feel about ourselves?
We know that our brains can change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies can change our brains? Our hormones?
And interestingly, in the research, Cuddy and company found that the main hormonal markers that played roles in these non-verbal dynamics were testosterone and cortisol.
A hormone that influences dominance levels, and a hormone that governs stress reactivity.
In primate hierarchies, the alpha male always has high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. In dominant, effective leaders, we also find – almost across the board – high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol.
This means the leaders are not just hard-charging testosterone juice heads, but also have low stress reactivity. They’re flexible and cool under pressure.
The researchers found that with a couple quick physical manipulations, changes you can implement in mere minutes, their test subjects were able to considerably increase their testosterone levels and decrease their cortisol. Again, in minutes.
Not days, weeks, or months.
They ran a series of tests with a group of subjects, measuring testosterone and cortisol levels before and directly after the subjects made some simple changes. And the results were significantly different.
Now imagine if you were to integrate these simple physical hacks into your everyday life, eventually just making them a part of who you are. Sounds great, right? It is.
So what are the hacks?
1. Change your role
2. Change your posture
Change Your Role
First, change your role. What is your role in life? How do you identify yourself? Do you think of yourself as dominant, as a leader, as a power player?
Or do you think of yourself as a pawn? Are you just a cog in the machine?
It doesn’t matter if you actually are just a cog in the machine, most of us are in some respect. What does matter is how you perceive your life situation and your social role in that situation.
In primate hierarchies, when a lesser male is forced to take over the role of alpha male in the society, within a matter of days his testosterone levels are significantly increased.
He’s the exact same animal, the same being, he just changed his role. And his hormone levels compensated for that change. They rose to the occasion, so to speak.
So what does this mean for you?
Take a few minutes to reflect on your current role in life. If you’re experiencing low testosterone, or symptoms of low T, is there a time in the recent past when you can recall a role change, and did that have an effect on your not just your outlook, but your biology? On your health?
If so, how are you going to change that? Now that you understand this, you are faced with the opportunity to alter your role to better suit your endocrine health.
Here’s my recommendation: take on more responsibility. Increase the amount of risk in your life, with an equally measurable increase in potential for reward. Higher testosterone males are generally far less risk averse, and that’s not just a consequence of their predetermined biology. It is possible for you to increase your testosterone and/or maintain its current level, by placing yourself in certain social and life situations. Change your role and your circumstances.
If what you’re doing right now isn’t working for you, what is holding you back from making the necessary changes?
And if you’ve always considered yourself a beta, or maybe just never considered yourself an alpha male, then give it a shot. Change your role – upgrade, in your own mind (because that is where all change begins), your role to alpha male and stop being so submissive.
Don’t be one of those pseudo-alpha douches though. We’ve all seen them. The guys who walk into the bar with their chests puffed out, acting macho. Being an alpha male is not about acting macho to compensate for your insecurities. It’s about feeling secure with who you are, and not letting anybody else threaten that security.
Change Your Posture
Cuddy et al. found some incredible results with a simple posing experiment, and that leads us to this next point… change your posture.
The researchers had a group of test subjects come into the lab, spit into a vial (for saliva testing) then assume several different posture positions for 2 minutes before spitting into another vial (for post test results).
The results: the subjects who assumed what the researchers termed “high power” positions (ie. spreading out, becoming physically bigger by standing straighter, or with hands on hips and power pose with legs) saw a whopping 20% increase in overall testosterone levels (in minutes)! They also saw a 25% decrease in cortisol.
So increase your testosterone by 20% and decrease your cortisol by 25% by just standing or sitting in a more powerful position. Assume a position of dominance with your body, and your brain will “rise to the occasion.”
On the flip side, those test subjects who assumed the “low power” positions (ie. sitting with legs crossed, arms crossed in front of themselves for protection, slouching, touching their neck, looking at the floor, etc) saw a 10% immediate decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol!
So two minutes can literally configure your brain over the short-term to either be assertive, confident, and comfortable or stress reactive and feeling shut down and vulnerable.
So yes, your body can change your brain.
Beyond just integrating a role change and some more assertive posturing into your everyday life, I believe most guys can benefit from specifically using these quick hacks in situations where your dominance might be compromised.
Again, don’t be a douchebag, but just be deliberate.
If you’re giving a speech in front of an audience, or a presentation in a boardroom to a group of executives, take that opportunity to be deliberate with your non-verbal cues, not just for the sake of how your audience perceives you, but for yourself.
See it as a challenge and rise to the occasion. Be assertive and protect your inner level of security by not compromising your status.
Stand tall, deliver your speech powerfully, don’t succumb to ‘low power’ poses, even when your body might naturally gravitate toward them.
Again, be deliberate.
Over time, with continual practice, the way you sit, stand, and move in your everyday life will transition to “high power” and away from “low power.” And this will actually increase your testosterone and lower your cortisol quickly and predictably.